Improving Cognitive Workload in Radiation Therapists: A Pilot EEG Neurofeedback Study

Front Psychol. 2020 Dec 3:11:571739. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.571739. eCollection 2020.


Radiation therapy therapists (RTTs) face challenging daily tasks that leave them prone to high attrition and burnout and subsequent deficits in performance. Here, we employed an accelerated alpha-theta neurofeedback (NF) protocol that is implementable in a busy medical workplace to test if 12 RTTs could learn the protocol and exhibit behavior and brain performance-related benefits. Following the 3-week protocol, participants showed a decrease in subjective cognitive workload and a decrease in response time during a performance task, as well as a decrease in desynchrony of the alpha electroencephalogram (EEG) band. Additionally, novel microstate analysis for neurofeedback showed a significant decrease in global field power (GFP) following neurofeedback. These results suggest that the RTTs successfully learned the protocol and improved in perceived cognitive workload following 3 weeks of neurofeedback. In sum, this study presents promising behavioral improvements as well as brain performance-related evidence of neurophysiological changes following neurofeedback, supporting the feasibility of implementing neurofeedback in a busy workplace and encouraging the further study of neurofeedback as a tool to mitigate burnout.

Keywords: EEG; NASA-TLX; alpha/theta; burnout; cognitive workload; microstates; neurofeedback; radiation oncology.